Most people are familiar with the story of On Golden Pond, with many having seen the 1981 film starring Henry and Jane Fonda and Katharine Hepburn. The story centres around relationships and families, in particular the dynamic which exists between Norman Thayer, JR (Dave Kirkman), his wife Ethel (Carole Grace) and his estranged daughter Chelsea (Ricarda Emanuel).
A difficult man to live with, Ethel exudes patience, understanding and unquestioning love toward her husband and often acts as a buffer between him and their daughter. When Chelsea drops by their house on Golden Pond with her new partner and his 13-year-old son, a new bond forms between Norman and the reluctant teenager. After Ethel agrees that she and her husband will look after Billy Ray (Brayden Smith) while Chelsea and Bill Ray (Ben Freeman) head off on vacation, a disgruntled Norman forms an unlikely friendship with the boy as he teaches him how to fish.
At the insistence of her mother, Chelsea decides to forgive her father for past transgressions and they form a tentative friendship. It would seem as if his fondness for Billy has opened his heart and they both realised that time is short and family is precious.
Kirkman and Grace are exceptional as the husband and wife growing old together and getting to know one another anew. Watching them perform was not like watching a play. Rather, it felt as if I was looking through the window of their house and observing them, undetected. Their portrayal of husband and wife was the most genuine relationship I have ever seen acted out on stage. Kirkman in particular was brilliant as the old English professor who is in the early stages of dementia.
Praise needs to be given to Maureen Cartledge for the clever set design which perfectly complements the story and utilises the small space.
While the entire cast were incredibly polished and worked well together, Kirkman and Grace stole the show. As one of the most believable stage couples I have ever seen, they perfectly articulate a depth of feeling that can only truly be found in couples who have known each other their whole lives and have faced everything life has thrown at them together.
On Golden Pond plays at The Pavilion Theatre in Castle Hill, Sydney until the 20th August. For more information and to book check out The Pavilion Theatre website http://paviliontheatre.org.au/